Cartoonist Keith Knight returns to San Francisco to kick off second season of Hulu’s ‘Woke’

Cartoonist Keith Knight gives an interview at the Cartoon Art Museum ahead of a screening of “Woke” on Monday, April 4, in San Francisco. The museum hosted a screening and Q&A on the second season of the SF-set Hulu series, based on Knight’s life and work. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

When asked if he felt any pressure at the launch of the second season of his Hulu series “Woke,” Keith Knight had a healthy perspective: “We don’t cure cancer. We only do TV, so there’s no need to be stressed.

A light-hearted approach to serious subject matter made “Woke” a smash hit on its spring 2020 debut. the town on Monday, April 4, to screen the show’s Season 2 premiere in front of a small crowd of around 100 friends and supporters and answer questions alongside cast members Lamorne Morris and Sasheer Zamata.

“It’s nice to be able to come back (to San Francisco),” Knight told The Chronicle in a video interview ahead of the screening. “I’m reconnecting and just saying hello and catching up with people, and eating a few things that I totally missed. I’m looking forward to it.

Cartoonist Keith Knight hugs a friend before a screening of the show “Woke” at the Cartoon Art Museum on Monday (April 4) in San Francisco. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Knight, famed creator of the long-running K Chronicles comic, lived in the city from 1990 to 2007 and used his experiences as inspiration for the series in San Francisco (although the production is based in Atlanta). Morris, who previously starred on the Fox sitcom ‘New Girl,’ plays a fictionalized version of Knight as he begins to reevaluate his response to racial injustice following a tense run-in with the San Francisco Police Department. Francis.

With the first season arriving just as the world came to a standstill due to the pandemic, the screening offered the cartoonist the opportunity to watch the show with an audience and gauge its effectiveness.

Based on the audience’s enthusiastic and often thunderous reaction to the event, there’s no need to worry about the show’s unique brand of humor that keeps viewers happy throughout the new batch of episodes.

Cartoonist Keith Knight (left) chats with actress Sasheer Zamata before a screening of their show ‘Woke’ at the Cartoon Art Museum. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

With original K Chronicles artwork lining the walls of the museum, attendees were able to admire the artwork and chat with the artist before and after the screening, with Knight signing books for fans immediately after. The centerpiece of the event was the show itself, the first season of which came just as the death of George Floyd put the topic of police brutality back at the center of public discourse.

However, the fact that the first season was produced long before these events – even if Keef Knight’s (Morris) experiences echoed them – is proof of the timelessness of “Woke’s” subject matter.

“I don’t think racism is going away. I don’t think technology is going away, and I don’t think capitalism is going away,” Knight said. “All of these things are current, but it’s also something that we’re going to be talking about in 10 years, in 20 years.”

If anything, the interim between seasons one and two has heightened audiences’ awareness of “Woke-ness” as a concept, as well as its role as both a cultural flashpoint and a source of humor. Thanks to social media, it’s never been easier to register an opinion online without needing to back it up with action, and a critique of these performative displays is firmly anchored in the premise of the show.

Actors Lamorne Harris (left) and Sasheer Zamata laugh during a Q&A for Hulu’s SF series ‘Woke’ at the Cartoon Art Museum on April 4. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

For Morris, the show came at a perfect time. After several memorable years of playing a sillier kind of comedy on “New Girl,” he was looking for a project with a bit more weight that could “potentially mean something to people around the world and to my community.” Reading the pilot script, he felt an immediate kinship with Keef, recalling his initial response to the character as, “It’s amazing.”

For Zamata, the role of Keef’s friend Ayana — his “Woke Yoda,” per Knight — grew as the series developed, thanks in large part to the easy chemistry between the cast.

“I feel very lucky to be in a group of people that I really like,” she said, adding that their chemistry makes it easy to create comedies. “Because we were writing on the fly in the first season, we used a lot of (improv) skills while filming, and that’s my favorite working environment.”

Lamorne Morris as Keef Knight in “Woke”. Photo: Steve Swisher/Hulu

In season two of “Woke,” Keef’s journey from struggling cartoonist to influential thought leader continues, with much to say about the post-2020 landscape of protest and activism. And while Keef discovers he has a bigger bullhorn after the events of the first season, he also finds the territory is even tougher as he tries to bring about social change without buying his own hype.

On this subject, when asked what was the best way to effect meaningful change in a way that transcends the social media bubble, Knight was initially hesitant (“If I had the answer to that, I think we’d be in much better shape than we are!”), but then added, “I think it’s just sharing stories and sharing experiences with people and somehow creating another of empathy.”

While “Woke” offers a humorous response to injustice, it’s just as much about adding nuance to the discussion, and for Knight, that means taking the conversation offline. Of course, there’s still the matter of promoting ‘Woke’, so he adds with a chuckle, “After watching season two of our show multiple times and talking about it on social media, you should tune out for a month.”

” Wake up “ (TV-MA) The second season premieres Friday, April 8 on Hulu.

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